The Danger of a single story about forensic humanitarianism.

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Since the mid-1980s, forensic scientists have played a crucial role in the international response to mass violence, contributing evidence to war crimes tribunals and identifying bodies to end the tortuous uncertainty of loved ones. Recently, experts at the International Committee for the Red Cross have described these activities using the term "humanitarian forensic action," applying it from the field's origins in Argentina to the multiple organizations and types of projects that exist today. This article cautions against any account of the history of humanitarian forensic action, or its contemporary landscape, that is so simple and unified. It points to divergent mandates, working methods, and even definitions of humanitarianism, focusing especially on new ways in which forensic scientists are addressing the mass suffering caused by structural violence.





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Rosenblatt, Adam (2019). The Danger of a single story about forensic humanitarianism. Journal of forensic and legal medicine, 61. pp. 75–77. 10.1016/j.jflm.2018.11.007 Retrieved from

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Adam R. Rosenblatt

Associate Professor of the Practice of the International Comparative Studies Program

Adam Rosenblatt is Associate Professor of the Practice in International Comparative Studies at Duke University. An ethnographer interested in human rights, the ethics of care, and our ongoing ties to the dead, Rosenblatt is the author of Digging for the Disappeared: Forensic Science after Atrocity (Stanford University Press, 2015), a winner of Choice's 2016 Outstanding Academic Title award. His forthcoming book, Cemetery Citizens: Reclaiming the Past and Working for Justice in American Burial Grounds, is an ethnography of grassroots groups working to preserve and honor places of the marginalized dead. The book largely focuses on ongoing reclamation efforts in African American burial grounds, including Durham's own Geer Cemetery. It uses sketches and poetic inquiry to “draw out” the voices and active, embodied presence of descendants, grassroots activists and memory-workers.

Adam a cartoonist, currently studying in the year-long certificate program at the Sequential Artists Workshop. He is currently planning a graphic ethnography project on the impact of mass graves in Northern Uganda, as well as his first graphic novel, Where Might Mira Be? The book is about his grandfather's experiences losing his family and being forced to work as an engraver in a Nazi concentration camp, the impossibility of locating and identifying many Holocaust victims, and a lineage of Jewish image-making expressed through engraving, drawing, and comics. His comics experiments can be found on Instagram at @researchcartoonist.

In Durham, Adam works with the Friends of Geer Cemetery, teaches community-engaged courses, and is the co-founder of the Durham Black Burial Grounds Collaboratory, an academic-community-cemetery partnership funded by the Duke Endowment.

Adam has published additional research about the politics of autism, civic engagement and teaching, and human rights activism in Disability Studies Quarterly, Human Rights Quarterly, The Applied Anthropologist, Hybrid Pedagogy and other journals. He has been consulted by the United Nations and other policy-makers on questions of missing persons and mass graves, and serves on the Faculty Advisory Board of the Duke Human Rights Center.

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